Partial results from Egypt's first round of parliamentary elections last week indicate Islamist parties captured an overwhelming majority of votes.
The figures released Sunday by Egypt's High Election Commission put the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party in the lead with 36.6 percent of the votes. The hardline Salafist Nour Party, which advocates a stricter segregation of the sexes, the full veiling of women and a ban on alcohol, garnered 24.4 percent, while the liberal Egyptian Bloc captured 13.4 percent, putting it in third place.
The balloting, which began November 28, is Egypt's first voting since Hosni Mubarak was ousted as president in February. It will determine the membership for about 30 percent of the 498-seat lower house. Elections for parliament's less powerful upper house will finish in March.
The next step in the complex election process, a series of runoffs among candidates competing in the first round for 52 seats, is set for Monday and Tuesday.
Election commissioner Abdel-Mooaez Ibrahim said a record number of voters took part in the first round of parliamentary elections covering nine provinces. Voters in the remaining 18 provinces will cast ballots in two stages that will take place in the coming weeks.
The man appointed by military rulers to lead a new Cabinet, Kamal al-Ganzouri, says he will delay announcing ministers until Wednesday because ballot counting is taking longer than expected.
Israel, which shares a border and 1979 peace agreement with Egypt, expressed deep concern about the initial success of Islamist parties.
In a speech Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed hope that "any government to be formed in Egypt will recognize the importance of keeping the peace treaty with Israel in its own right and as a basis for regional security and economic stability."
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said he hoped that Egypt will not become an extremist Islamist state, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israeli TV Saturday that although it is too early to predict how the changes will affect the region, he finds the trend "worrisome."
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.